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Wilmington City Council to discuss fees on cyber-sweepstakes machines, downtown ABC permits

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Tuesday, April 20, City Council meeting, 6:30 p.m. at City Hall

Items of interest on the agenda include:

* An ordinance to charge $3,000 per machine per year for cyber-sweepstakes machines. If approved, the ordinance would not affect existing businesses right away, but would affect any new requests for permits for businesses that want to install sweepstakes machines. The ordinance would also impact existing businesses when they renew their annual business licenses with the city. The current 90-day moratorium on new sweepstakes machines is still in place until June, when Council will consider other issues associated with these machines, such as hours of operation, where these types businesses can be located and how many of these types of businesses can be operated in one area.

* A resolution outlining criteria for the city's recommendation or denial of ABC permits downtown. The city makes recommendations to the state ABC Commission about whether to approve or deny permits, but the state has the final say. The recommendations include denial of new private club permits where mixed drinks are served and the denial of permits to bars with a history of problems such as drugs or fighting or overcrowding. The resolution would not affect existing businesses that already have a permit. The Council also received a report about recommendations for dealing with additional issues beyond approval or denial of ABC permits, but none of those recommendations will be acted on at tomorrow's meeting.

The city's ABC permit recommendations are based on the overriding concern for public safety. Three important facts helped shape these recommendations:

* Currently there are 73 active ABC permits in the CBD. The sheer density of establishments selling alcohol directly contributes to numerous other issues.
* Statistical analysis of calls for police service in the CBD shows a sharp increase between 11:00 p.m. – 3:00 a.m., which are the hours leading up to and immediately following bar closing time. This trend has been documented consistently over a 10-year period.
* The recent citizen survey commissioned by the city revealed that 55 percent of respondents said they feel unsafe downtown at night. The perception of being unsafe undoubtedly will affect the future vitality of the CBD.

The report with recommendations for dealing with additional issues beyond approval or denial of ABC permits, as well as the full Council agenda, can be accessed on the city's website at wilmingtonnc.gov.

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